Forget what you’ve read or what you’re predisposed to think of Mark Russell, Richard Pace and Leonard Kirk’s belated series, Second Coming. Yes, the first issue is a satirical piece – as we’ve come to expect from Russell, and a much needed one in a week we heard MAD Magazine was closing its doors – but it’s also, at its core, true to the teaching of Christ, something you won’t be seen reported by Fox News, I imagine. The heathens.
What you will get if you pick up a copy this Wednesday – or find a copy, as I imagine it’ll be hotter property than a beach front house in Hell – is a good humoured, intelligent comic book, that depicts a very different version of God and Jesus that you were otherwise used to, as well as point out some of the dafter contradictions in the Bible too. But, within this predominant and welcome comedic tone, there are genuine moments of pathos and admiration for a guy not willing to bend to the corruptions of society. Corruptions so embedded in our culture, beliefs and values that we don’t even know they are anymore!
Early on in the comic we get a potted history of humanity, as depicted in the Bible. There’s the inclusion of Christianity’s very own creation myth with Adam and Eve making an appearance (I don’t remember the fruit they eat being shaped so sensually, that’s for sure), as well as references to The Deluge and, of course, the early years of Jesus as well as his crucifixion, too. And in this recounting we are given a fresh perspective of humanity’s development. A development that sees our creation of laws not so much a judicial system aimed to bring criminals to justice, but rather an excuse for our lack of mercy, as we see people of these antique lands ready to stone a female adulterer to death. A law still upheld in many ‘modern’ Middle Eastern countries, and one that cannot help but draw this comparison. Hardly the civilised society God had planned. And he knows it.
The God of Second Coming is all too human in his emotions; his anger and his pettiness. Not for the first time are we asked to question the severe punishment he metes out to Adam and Eve for simply eating a bit of fruit. He even pranks a newbie to Heaven and puts the literal fear of God into him, because in life this newly-dead guy was “a fan of mean pranks” himself. Seems God’s got a wicked sense of humour when he wants to show it. I like this curmudgeon of a God a lot.
The sketchier art stylings of Richard Pace – who depicts the Biblical scene and this set of scenes in Heaven – contrast extremely well with the smoother, more economical line art of newcomer Leonard Kirk, who depicts the adventures of Jesus, and his new ‘life coach’ Sunstar, on this mortal coil of ours. The aesthetics of Kirk’s art style, to me at least, is a great fit for the slicker, shinier, but ultimately, more superficial world we live in when compared with the scruffier, less material world of the Bible that so fits Pace’s own style. When it seems Kirk is embellishing on Pace’s own scene of a sermon Earth, it helps with the consistency of the whole book and sustaining this contrasting style that works so well. This contrast is further supported by the work of colourist Andy Troy who keeps the Biblical scenes earthy with a limited, but effective palette of muddier colours suitable for the time and geography depicted in such scenes.
As for Sunstar, he too has been corrupted by his own sense of ‘truth, justice’ and all that, and thinks that the traditional way all superheroes deal with criminals – Crash! Bang! Pow! – is the correct way. It’s left to the supposed pupil, Jesus, to point out that there may well be deep issues that cause people to turn to crime. It’s also a theme Russell returns to in his essay included here, pointing out that, “In a world where our problems are increasingly immune to violent solutions . . . no amount of drop-kicking people is going to solve global warming or get your sick mom the health care she needs . . . we need to start incorporating other solutions into the thought experiment.”
Russell reminds us that Jesus has never wavered in his beliefs, even if we’ve twisted these teachings since to suit ourselves. This is a much deeper book that you maybe expected, but one that throws up important philosophical, and theological issues, albeit often delivered with a smile. If the zealots out there who have already dismissed this book as the work of Satan would give it even the most cursory of looks, I think they’d be pleasantly surprised by Russell’s Christ. Although, I have heard that if you spin Russell anti-clockwise you will hear a secret message to Beelzebub emanating from his lips.
And so endeth our first issue. But, it doesn’t. This is Ahoy Comics, remember, and so there’s also the inclusion of a back-up short story entitled, The Closing Door, by writer Stuart Moore and with illustrations by Cayetano Valenzuela; a macabre subway ride across New York like no other and a suitable inclusion to round off this promising first issue.
Overall, Second Coming #1 is a satisfyingly satirical comic book, but one that will leave you thinking. Not bad for a ‘funny book’, I reckon.
Second Coming #1 is out Wednesday, the 10th of July.